Jet to Pick Up Elder Bush Warned About Low Altitude

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

About two minutes from landing, the pilot of a private jet that crashed while coming to Houston to pick up former President Bush was warned about his aircraft's low altitude, a federal investigator said Tuesday.

The probe continued into what caused the Gulfstream G-1159A jet to go down about 6:15 a.m. Monday, killing its two male pilots and a female flight attendant.

The plane, which belonged to Jet Place Inc. of Tulsa, Okla., left Love Field in Dallas at 5:15 a.m. It was to have picked up Bush, who lives in Houston, for a trip to Ecuador to give a speech at a business conference.

The co-pilot was identified Tuesday as Michael Desalvo, 62, from Roanoke, Texas.

Mark Rosenker, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said the control tower at Hobby Airport told the plane's crew members about three minutes before landing that winds were calm and their runway was clear.

"The controller talked with the aircraft approximately two minutes before the accident and asked them to check their altitude because they saw them at somewhere approximately 400 feet," said Rosenker.

It was not immediately known if the crew responded, NTSB officials said.

The jet's wing and the landing gear on the right side clipped a 120-foot tall light pole on a tollway road about 3 1/4 miles south of the runway. The normal altitude for a jet at that point from the runway would have been 1,000 feet.

Rosenker said there are alarms aboard a plane that tell a pilot if he is flying too low, but it was not immediately known if they were activated.

Various factors, including the condition of the aircraft, the weather and the history of the flight crew, are being examined. The crash site was covered in thick fog at the time.

Rosenker said the cockpit voice recorder, which was recovered Monday, had 32 minutes of information, including the pilots receiving a weather report from Hobby Airport and their discussion of navigation aid settings.

The "black box" flight data recorder, also recovered Monday, has 25 hours worth of data, which is still being decoded.

Rosenker said the 67-year-old pilot of the jet and Desalvo were a "seasoned crew," with each having 19,000 hours of flying experience.

FBI agents are part of the investigation, routine in all aircraft accidents, he said.

The crash scattered debris over more than 100 yards, including parts of the tollway.

No one on the ground was injured, but police said up to eight cars were hit by debris, causing flat tires and broken windows. The tollway was shut down about nine hours.

The investigation could take up to a year to complete.


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